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Sexual Health: Intersections in politics and society

ucyow3c18 November 2014

pencil-icon Written by Michael Espinoza, PhD candidate, UCL Institute of the Americas

HIV virology testing form“By then, it was too late to hate him [for being gay].” – a self-described ‘former gay-basher’ reveals how he unknowingly befriended a gay man.

This testimonial, part of a research project by Dr Richard Mole (UCL School of Slavonic Studies and Eastern European Studies), shows how a lack of human understanding can dictate how people relate to others whom they perceive as ‘different’. The difference in this instance involved sexuality and its relation to sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The first presenter was Professor Jonathan Bell (UCL Institute of the Americas), whose paper was titled The Economic Closet: healthcare, sexuality, and the politics of respectability during the AIDS crisis.

Professor Bell discussed how healthcare politics in the 1980s saw gay rights leaders face two difficulties – one was the struggle against private health insurance companies and the other was the attempt to “adapt the socially-regressive and gendered New Deal safety net to their needs”.

Not only did they have to accept that HIV positive gay men “had to be classified as disabled and unable to work to be entitled to welfare”, they also had to fight against profit-driven private health insurance companies who sought to portray HIV positive gay men as unproductive citizens who have “sexually promiscuous lifestyles” in order to deny their claims.

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Honouring the Righteous

Robert Eagle3 May 2012

I have always thought that the Italian military from the 1920s until 1943 were simply fascists and puppets of the Nazis. At UCL on 24 April, Holocaust survivor Imre Rochlitz and his son Joseph presented the easily forgotten account of many Italian soldiers’ determination to thwart the transfer of up to 30,000 Jews into German hands during WWII.

Titled Honouring the Righteous, in recognition of both Holocaust survivors and those who saved their lives, the event was organised by the UCL European Institute, the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) and the UCL Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies.

Joseph Rochlitz screened his 1994 documentary, The Righteous Enemy, which illuminated how Italian soldiers repeatedly disobeyed demands from Nazi officials to hand over Jews from Italian-occupied Croatia, Greece and southern France. Interviews with Italian commanders revealed their determination to undermine even direct orders from Mussolini to comply with Nazi directives.

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The lure of the Kremlin

news editor7 February 2012

Having discovered Russia by accident in 1553, British representatives swiftly arrived at the view that Muscovy was a barbaric, isolated country, with a populace that was kept purposefully ignorant by its ruling classes.

At a Lunch Hour Lecture on 31 January, Ben Davies heard Dr Sergei Bogatyrev explain how this picture obscures the more complex reality of Russian integration into the cultural and commercial networks of the 16th century.

Dr Bogatyrev began by giving us a brief idea of the context in which Russia was operating under Tsar Ivan IV, better known as Ivan the Terrible. Ivan was an aggressive militarist, and British discovery of the country came during the middle of significant expansion of Russian borders. No doubt, this contributed to a perception of barbarism on the part of western Europe.

The view of Muscovy as rather ‘backward’ seems to have been established almost immediately.

Richard Chancellor, the captain whose boat was wrecked on Russian shores during a 1553 expedition to find a northern sea route to China, returned to Britain apparently astonished by Russian ignorance of Latin, Greek and Hebrew (although, as Dr Bogatyrev wondered pointedly, how many 16th century ship captains would have known these classical languages?)

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